'Small Business Saturday' a day to shop local

Small retailers traditionally don't get much of a sales bump on Black Friday, a day reserved for big chains to trot out their deepest price cuts of the Christmas season.

So American Express is sponsoring Small Business Saturday, an attempt to call attention to small, locally owned retailers across the nation as the traditional holiday shopping season kicks off this weekend.

The drive seems to be gaining traction, with just short of a million likes on its Facebook page, /SmallBusinessSaturday, as of Wednesday afternoon.

Dan Murray, state director for the Kansas chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, represents one of the national groups supporting the American Express effort.

"Certainly, everyone hears a lot about Black Friday, with folks lining up at the big chain stores," Murray said. "We don't want to discourage that.

"But we want to support any effort that reminds folks how small business accounts for a large portion of our economy in Kansas. Wichita is no stranger to that."

Any such reminder is welcome to Wichita retailers, who are marketing Christmas earlier this year to fight a down economy and the Black Friday focus on major retailers.

"I don't expect a lot (Friday)," said Greg Hephner, owner of the family-founded Hephner TV & Electronics. "We'll have some great deals but those deals have been started prior to Black Friday.

The idea behind Small Business Saturday, also being promoted on radio and TV and with newspaper advertisements by American Express, is to remind consumers that money spent in small, independently owned stores is an investment in the community, said Small Business Saturday founder Cinda Baxter, a blogger from Minneapolis who is a former stationery-store owner and now a retail consultant.

"For every $100 spent... $68 returns back to the local economy from payroll and taxes to related business expenditures," she said. She said that local return drops to $43 if spent in a chain store.

How that thought became a nationwide movement with American Express as its primary sponsor began as a call-to-action blog post by Baxter in March 2009.

She urged her readers to think of three independently owned businesses they would miss if they disappeared, and to consider that "if half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue."

Rosa Sabater, a senior vice president at the credit card giant, has been working with small-business customers for 15 years. What she has heard in the past six months, she said, has been "almost desperation."

"Their No. 1 need is sales," Sabater said. "They need people walking in their real door, or virtual door. If they have that, they can invest in jobs and infrastructure."

The Saturday after Thanksgiving made sense, Sabater said, considering "there's a Black Friday, there's a Cyber Monday," so named for the heavy Internet shopping done the Monday after Thanksgiving.